ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan inaugurated the country’s first National Science and Technology Park (NSTP) at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) on Monday.

Speaking at the inauguration, Mr Khan said the government was determined to turn Pakistan into a knowledge-based economy.

Other guests at the event included Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, who is also the chairman of the Nust Board of Governors, Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Hussain Chaudhry, diplomats, industry representatives from across the country and the park’s local and international tenants.

Mr Khan said antiquated systems of economic progress had been upstaged by new and enormously improved knowledge economies wherein any country’s economic substance and outlook were the sum of its intellectual capital, research and innovation prowess and edge in technological advancements.

He regretted that Pakistan was once a confident nation but had become dependent on others, adding development in Pakistan during the 60s was not due to outsiders but “our own systems, our own institutions”.

He also praised the science and technology minister for his passion for a ministry that had been neglected in the past. He said people thought the PTI government did not take technological development seriously because Mr Hussain was the minister for science and technology, but a “good captain knows which players should pay on which number”.

He also paid tribute to retired Lt Gen Syed Shujaat Hussain, the architect of the university.

Mr Khan said Pakistan currently ranks 105th on the Global Innovation Index, far behind immediate neighbours China, India and Iran. He said it was about time the country did something about this, by pursuing initiatives on the pattern of the NSTP, a project that was integrated with the government’s vision to revolutionise education and the industrial sector from the grassroots to the highest level.

According to Nust, the NSTP has been launched under the overarching theme of the ‘Innovate Pakistan’, a platform designed to synergise researchers, creators, investors, implementers and end users of technologies to transform innovative ideas into successful products and services while promulgating a culture of entrepreneurship in Pakistan.

The programme will augment the government’s new ‘Kamyab Pakistan’ programme, which is aimed at youth development.

The NSTP has received attention since the Public Private Partnership Authority have the university approval to initiate the process. National and international companies including Turkish Aerospace Industries Inc, Hytera Communications Co from China, ABB from Switzerland, APIMatic from New Zealand, Rapidex from the United Arab Emirates, Alpha Squad, Jhpiego and Chemonics from the United States, NLC Smart Solutions, Graana Innovation Lab, Pharmatech Pakistan and many others are among its tenants.

Mr Khan also told the audience that he has formed task force headed by Dr Attaur Rahman that will help enhance Pakistan’s technological competence through capacity building and integration of innovation systems. He said that the government’s ‘Start-up Pakistan’ programme is aimed at generating 10,000 start-ups and engaging 100,000 students in learning new technologies by 2023.

Also speaking at the event, Mr Chaudhry commended the Nust management on the inauguration of the NSTP. He said technology-based initiatives were inevitable for the development of the economy.

Highlighting some initiatives taken and under consideration at the ministry, he mentioned ‘Think Future’ programme, which will initially focus on seven key emerging technologies. He said the government had also directed its focus toward innovative technologies in biotechnology to ensure their tangible contribution to the GDP.

He added that the government was looking forward to indigenously developing various vaccines, and the international standard Herbal Medicine Park is under development in Jhelum.

In his welcome address, Nust Rector retired Lt Gen Naweed Zaman spoke about why STPs were indispensable in the era of knowledge and innovation-driven economies.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2019